A sudden crash and life has changed as you know it. The loss of a loved one sends shock waves through your household, making daily activities such as getting out of bed and taking a shower seem nearly impossible. When your loved one was taken from you in a car crash that they neither contributed to nor caused, the resulting anger, confusion, and sadness can leave you unsure where to turn.
At Weinstein Legal, we understand that emotions run high during this time, and that the last thing on your mind is final arrangements, wills, and other legal documents, much less the complications of pursuing a legal case. Our team is here to help in any way we can, and we start by seeking compensation for your loved one's sudden death, and your family's pain and suffering.
Nothing can ever make up for the loss of a loved one. But at Weinstein Legal, our dedicated attorneys work tirelessly to secure you justice. Continue reading for the eight steps we recommend after a loved one dies in a car crash.
1. Do Not Handle a Wrongful Death Case Alone
If your loved one was killed by another driver's negligence, hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney to handle the case for you is critical. This is especially true if the accident was caused by an individual charged with reckless driving, or driving while intoxicated or under the effects of legal or illegal drugs.
The sooner you and your family contact an experienced attorney, the quicker he or she can begin investigating the scene of the collision and examine the vehicle. This also allows the attorney adequate time to collect victim statements and take photographs of the scene, two steps which are fundamental to building a successful case.
The period after losing a loved one is a horror. A trusted wrongful death attorney like one of the lawyers at Weinstein Legal will alleviate the stress of having to do this footwork, so that you can focus on the mental and emotional health of your family.
2. Notify Your Insurance Company
As with all auto accidents, the crash must be reported to the insurance company. After finding an attorney, your next step should be informing the insurance company of the accident as well as the untimely death of your loved one.
Together, your insurance company can help you fill in the gaps, such as finding a rental car if your loved one was driving the only car you owned, as well as opening a file in the case that you may need to file a underinsured or uninsured driver claim.
3. Do not Give a Statement to the At-Fault Insurance Company
While alerting your own insurance company to the occurrence of an accident is a critical step, remember that you owe nothing to the at-fault insurance company. Typically, insurance adjusters from the opposing company will call to offer condolences, and will likely begin asking questions once courtesies have been exchanged. It is the job of the adjuster to pay you as little as possible to settle your claim, and any answers you provide could be used against you.
When the opposing insurance company calls, give them the name and number of your wrongful death attorney. Your attorney can handle all communications with the opposing insurance company, and help to ensure that you don't say anything that could jeopardize your case.
4. Determine If There Is a Will for the Deceased
Determining if your loved one has a will can be difficult at first, especially given the unexpected nature of their passing. However, if they do have a will, the information they have specified as their final wishes will help to shape the remaining steps.
If the deceased had a will, the appointed executor of the estate is responsible for bringing about a claim against the at-fault individual and their insurance company. A will also sheds light on whether the deceased any preferred burial or cremation options which the family should honor.
5. Make the Final Arrangements
One of the hardest things you will have to do is make funeral and burial plans for your loved one. In the case that your loved one had a will or pre-planned funeral options, this step often consists of simply honoring their wishes.
However, more often than not, the sudden nature of a fatal crash takes our loved ones away from us before they can complete a will or pre-plan their final resting place. Therefore, during this time it is best to lean on close family and friends for support and comfort while making final arrangements. The opposing insurance company may offer to pay for funeral costs, however, consult with your attorney before agreeing to anything. These costs can be reimbursed in your claim down the line.
6. Do Not Sign Anything without Guidance
The insurance company will likely send a variety of paperwork and forms for you to fill in and return. They may even send a release that will immediately end the case. If any document is sent to you by the insurance company, save it and share it with your attorney as soon as possible.
It's easy to hurriedly sign anything presented in front of you just to get it over with and get back to the time you need to grieve. Our attorneys understand that the piles of paperwork you're presented with can be overwhelming, and we want to help. Before you sign anything that may harm your case and your family's compensation, consult with us first. We'll help you sort through the spam so you can get back to what's most important - healing.
7. Determine Who's Making the Claim
If your loved one was killed in an auto accident caused by another driver, the survivors are entitled to recover monetary compensation for all medical expenses. By "survivors," we mean the next-of-kin, including spouse, minor children, dependent adult children, and dependent parents.
As noted above, if an executor of the estate was noted in the loved one's will, this individual will move forward with the claim. If no will was present, the laws of intestacy - laws determining who has a rightful claim to the estate when there's no will - will determine who makes the claim.
8. What Damages Are in the Claim?
After a loved one is killed in an auto accident, you and your family can seek a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death claim seeks to compensate a family for the full value or the life of the deceased, including the loss of the relationship, enjoyment of life, and even raising a family.
Damages included in a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical bills
- Loss of income
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of benefits, including insurance
- Hospital fees, including ambulance service
In the case of gross negligence or intentional acts that contributed to the accident which caused the death, punitive damages may also be awarded.
After losing a loved one in a car crash, the steps you might need to take in the foreseeable future can seem too much to bear. Contact a knowledgeable wrongful death law firm that specializes in wrongful death auto or truck accident cases. Working alongside a trusted wrongful death attorney will not only ease the stress in such a tumultuous time, but can also help to secure compensation for your family to use in the future.